No one knows what will happen with Bitcoin. Not the skeptics, not the believers, not even Satoshi Nakamoto. There is no crystal ball. Many of the sharpest minds in crypto embrace that uncertainty, broadly agreeing that we just don’t know. And perhaps that’s part of the allure. “Most of the biggest use cases 10 years from now will be things that would sound insane to us today,” says Elizabeth Stark, who, as the head of Lightning Labs, is quite literally trying to build the Bitcoin network’s future. “Kind of like how an encyclopedia that anyone can edit would have sounded crazy to people in the pre-Wikipedia era.”
What will the bitcoin cryptocurrency be when it grows up? Andreas Antonopoulos, an undisputed Ambassador of Bitcoin, thinks it’s unlikely to be any one singular thing. “There is no unified use case,” he says. “The idea that bitcoin will be used as a store of value or that bitcoin will be used as a medium of exchange or that bitcoin will be used in a myriad of other ways – bitcoin is used in all of those ways, in different places.”
His point is that bitcoin is already working in the real world in a variety of actual scenarios, and it will continue to do so in ways we cannot predict. “The more broadly it’s deployed, the more fragmented and diffused its uses become,” he says, rightly challenging the very premise of this thought experiment.
Fair enough. It’s a good caveat. And this is all preamble to say that these scenarios are not meant to be mutually exclusive, they are not exhaustive and they are certain to spark dissent and debate. But given the renewed mainstream interest in bitcoin – which is impossible, of course, to untangle from its explosive bull run – this felt like a good moment to pause, reflect and consider a range of potential outcomes. Bitcoin is a forward-looking idea. There are some who cherish what bitcoin can do today, but most of its champions point to what it might do tomorrow.
So what will tomorrow look like? Specifically, how about 2030? We chose that year as it’s far enough in the future to allow time for meaningful change, but still near enough to visualize if you squint. I spoke to a gamut of sharp Bitcoiners to explore a range of 12 potential scenarios, good and bad, from cataclysmic failure to “the moon” or even Mars.
Scenario 1: Bitcoin thrives as digital gold
The simplest scenario. Peter McCormack, host of the podcast “What Bitcoin Did,” considers this the “trends continue” scenario. “It’s pretty much a certainty or very much a high probability,” he predicts. “Bitcoin really just carries on what it’s doing, more people adopt it and the network grows in value.” We’d see bitcoin in pension funds, bitcoin in sovereign wealth funds, and potentially bitcoin on government balance sheets. Bitcoin’s market cap eclipses that of gold.
But price is only part of…